Last night, President Trump issued an executive order targeting public benefit programs. The executive order requires relevant federal departments (including USDA) to review programmatic regulations and submit a report to the White House identifying opportunities to strengthen work requirements and tighten eligibility criteria, particularly for immigrants. The executive order lays out a justification that is rooted in many misconceptions about poverty, taking aim at single mothers and declaring that public benefit programs create dependency on the federal government. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a statement echoing the White House’s language on dependency.
The executive order follows a USDA comment period seeking public input on how to “promote work” in SNAP, as well as the Administration’s grant of a waiver permitting work requirements in Kentucky's Medicaid program. Although the Administration is already signaling that SNAP and Medicaid are the primary focus of this executive order, other programs like WIC must be included in the reports to the White House. Alarmingly, both SNAP and Medicaid have stricter requirements on immigrant participation than WIC, and NWA is deeply concerned that the Administration – in the midst of drafting its long-rumored public charge rule – would seek new opportunities to limit immigrant eligibility.
On the merits, WIC should not be implicated in future reforms given the program’s time-limited, efficient delivery of services to a targeted population, as well as innovative elements of WIC (like breastfeeding peer counselors) that promote self-sufficiency. NWA looks to USDA to highlight WIC’s successes in its report to the White House. NWA will raise concerns with this executive order in ongoing discussions with relevant stakeholders as we work to ensure that WIC services are available for all eligible families. NWA will continue to update members as USDA submits its recommendations and the Administration contemplates further action.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to Leave Office in January
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced this morning that he will not seek re-election and will therefore vacate his leadership of House Republicans in January 2019. His speakership lasted for just over three years. With the Republican majority at stake in the 2018 midterm elections, it is unclear who will assume leadership over House Republicans in the next Congress. Ryan’s two deputies – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) – are both rumored to desire the post.